Bob Monkhouse’s Complete Speaker’s Handbook: “Just say a few words”

The Blurb:

“Discover Bob Monkhouse’s secrets accumulated from a lifetime’s experience in scriptwriting and speechmaking. With his own golden rules, advice and examples from fellow experts and famous friends, and a wealth of humorous material that worked for him, this light-hearted yet thoroughly practical handbook ensures that you will always be ready to say a few words.”


The verdict:

  • An entertaining, easy to read book which nevertheless contains a wealth of tips, tricks and sample jokes.
  • A must for anyone who wants to take their speech to the next level, or just needs some inspiration and reassurance.


Good for:

  • Lots of examples and sample lines.
  • Picking up tips of seasoned professionals.
  • An entertaining and easy to read book.
  • Not just limited to wedding speeches – plenty here for those asked to speak at work or other social functions, as well as being indispensable for the aspiring professional after dinner speaker.
  • Jokes – not just the large amount of samples which you can use in your speech, but also he talks through (in not too much detail) the mechanics of what makes a joke funny, and when.


Not so good for:

  • First published back in 1988, so some of the material, stories and examples can come across as a bit dated.
  • This is more a general purpose public speaking book, so if you’re looking for something that deals just with wedding speeches then you may be disappointed.


The detail:

Bob Monkhouse was a British comedian and much sought-after public speaker who sadly passed away in 2003. Although he was better known in his later years as a gameshow host, it is as a comic that his influence is felt even to this day.

For example, take the following line: “I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my father.  Not screaming in terror like his passengers.” This joke wouldn’t be out of place in a modern stand-up routine. Indeed, many of his jokes do reappear, time and again: a worthy tribute to a great comedian.

He also had a passion for collecting jokes; in 1995 he made the headlines by offering a £10,000 reward for two stolen notebooks containing over 25 years’ worth of jokes and material. A clue to where he developed this habit comes from a story he relates in his “Complete Speaker’s Handbook”. When he was a 20 year-old novice comedy writer, the seasoned comic performer Vic Oliver showed him how he produced his acts, using cards pulled at random from an extensive file of jokes.

The book is full of anecdotes such as this, making it much easier to read than other books of this type. It does mean that the book can feel a bit dated in places, but this doesn’t make the lessons he shares any less valid or less important.

The “Complete Speaker’s Handbook” contains a wealth of techniques, tips and tricks amassed through over 50 years of working in show business: as not only a writer and performer but also as a much in-demand after dinner speaker.

It covers the whole process of speech making, from how to gather your ideas and  construct your speech to how to actually deliver it, including finding the speaking style that best suits you and other presenting techniques.

The chapter on “Fears and Fallacies” is almost worth the cost of the book itself, a reassuring, practical section that has enough to calm the most nervous would-be speaker.

There are also, as you’d expect from a book written by a comedian, hundreds of lines and jokes to cover many, many situations; not only opening and closing jokes but more specific scenarios such as where the previous speaker has verbal diarrhoea and those all-important heckler put-downs.

Bob Monkhouse may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no disputing his public speaking experience. This book nicely sums up his golden rules for ensuring you are well prepared to stand up and speak in front of any group of people, and just as importantly hold their attention when you do so

To quote one of Bob’s famous lines: “They all laughed when I said I was going to be a comedian. Well, they’re not laughing now.” Take on board just a tenth of the lessons in this wonderful book, and I can guarantee you’ll have enough to get them laughing at your speech.





Peter D Oxley
Pete Oxley is a freelance writer and business manager who lives in the English Home Counties. He enjoys reading and writing in a wide range of areas but his main passions are sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction and Steampunk. Influences include HG Wells, Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, KW Jeter, Scott Lynch, Clive Barker and Joss Whedon. Author of the non-fiction book "The Wedding Speech Manual" and the historical fantasy series "The Infernal Aether". He lives with his wife, two young sons and a slowly growing guitar collection. Probably a masochist: aside from writing and willingly speaking in front of large crowds of strangers, Pete spends his spare time playing music badly and supporting football teams that play badly.

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